Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May 1 March in Minneapolis

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Coverage in the Minneapolis StarTribune was pretty good for the Immigrants Rights March yesterday in Minneapolis.

Immigrants on the move for change

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Photo by Jeff Wheeler , Star Tribune

Hoisting banners and flags, immigrants and their advocates march down Lake Street Tuesday afternoon.
Demonstrators marched for immigrant rights, but the kind of wide-scale work stoppages seen a year ago weren't in evidence.

By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune
Last update: May 02, 2007 – 12:09 AM

Stretching for three city blocks, immigrants and their advocates took to the streets in south Minneapolis on Tuesday as part of a nationwide day of demonstrations to support immigration reform and worker rights.

Hoisting banners and flags, participants marched down Lake Street at 4 p.m., eliciting friendly honks along the way.

Many Latino businesses closed their doors at that hour so their workers could attend events in Minneapolis. And several hundred high school and college students left their classes to attend an afternoon rally at the State Capitol in St. Paul or other events.

But local businesses weren't reporting wide-scale worker stoppages or boycotts, as some did last year. In part because of a public backlash to those actions, the focus Tuesday was on worker rights and immigration reform.

"Last year it was different because it was the first year," said Victoria Gonzales, a co-owner of Manny's Tortas in Minneapolis, which closed its three shops a year ago. "But in reality, we don't want to boycott this country. It's our country, too. We just want to show our support for immigration reform that would help [illegal] immigrants fix their status."

Buoyed by bright blue skies and warm weather, demonstrators marched from Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue S. to Powderhorn Park. The group, about half Latino, included a large group of high school and college students, as well as many families and workers.

"I'm here because I want Congress to change immigration laws," said Francisco Romero, a construction worker who took the day off from work, with permission from his boss. "And we want them [immigration agents] to stop the raids."

Romero and others acknowledged that many people were staying away from the demonstration this year because of stepped-up enforcement by immigration agents, including recent raids in Minnesota.

Those raids were criticized at a rally after the march, as was the fact that Congress has not passed changes that would create a pathway to legal residency for illegal workers.

Cell phones put to use

Elsewhere in Minneapolis, about 100 people, most carrying wooden crosses representing people deported during immigration raids, gathered on the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary Tuesday afternoon. From there they embarked on a several-block procession to Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Outside Westminster, many participants took out cell phones and called the offices of Minnesota congressional members, asking them to approve immigration reforms.

While the demonstrations were similar in nature to last year's, the day's impact on business was considerably less. For example, Sean McHugh, a spokesman for Swift & Co., reported "no effect" on the workforce this year.

"In contrast to last year, when we didn't operate the Worthington plant on May 1, this year all plants are up and running," said McHugh.

Still, the May Day rally was on everyone's mind in the Latino business district on E. Lake. Street. Store owner Santos Jimenez said he'd sold 300 U.S. and Mexican flags this week, in part to use at the rally.

At the bustling Mercado Central, workers and customers were planning to leave at 4 p.m. so they could attend the demonstration. The complex of 40 businesses shut down, too.

"We decided to treat it as a holiday," said Mercado Central manager Becky George. "The idea for today is to foster immigrant business. But if we close, customers go someplace else."

At the International Bazaar down the street, home to a cluster of businesses, a pink note was posted on the door saying, "We will be closed May 1 To Support a Just Legalization for Everyone."

The St. Paul School District reported that about 70 high school students skipped classes Tuesday in connection with the rallies. In Minneapolis, about 90 students left Southwest High School at noon, said officials in that district. They said they didn't have numbers for other schools in the district.

Staff writer Tom Ford contributed to this report.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511 •


WCCO TV, a CBS affiliate, had this to say:

Immigrant Marchers Trying To Get Back Momentum

(AP) Minneapolis Marchers took to Lake Street on Tuesday for the second national immigrant workers boycott, hoping to pump new life into proposals that would give many illegal immigrants the chance to become citizens.

It's been a year since perhaps 1 million Hispanic immigrants joined rallies across the country on a day intended to show their value to the nation's economy. But little progress on congressional reform, mixed with hundreds of arrests in Minnesota this year, have dampened some immigrants' enthusiasm for speaking up.

"It's been stuck. They can't seem to agree on something," union representative Jose Garcia said of plans that would allow some illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. "Maybe there could be a guest worker program first, and then citizenship later. It doesn't all have to happen at once."

Waving flags and homemade signs, a throng of mostly Hispanic immigrants clogged the street on the near south side of Minneapolis as they made their way toward Powderhorn Park. Organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people took part in the march, about half as many for a similar march and rally as last year. Police didn't provide a crowd estimate.

"We want some things changed so people will have the opportunity to be happy and live in peace," said Nora Barrera, who works as an immigrant liaison for the Minneapolis public school system.

Barrera and her husband, Juan, who are legal residents, said they were frustrated with the slow pace of reform and said many people were living unnecessarily stressful lives because of concerns about being arrested.

"It's like cat-and-mice, the way some people have to live," Nora Barrera said. "People are living with fear and stress."

Billed more as a protest than a worker boycott, the day took on a lower profile in Minnesota as organizers planned two events for late in the afternoon -- after the work day was over for many immigrant workers and business owners.

Besides the march along Lake Street, religious leaders re-created the Stations of the Cross in a walk from the Basilica of St. Mary to Loring Park. Also, about 70 people marched in the southern Minnesota city of Austin, where many immigrants work in meatpacking.

Meanwhile, few of the several hundred Hispanic-owned shops along Lake Street -- many of which closed their doors for last year's boycott -- appeared to have shuttered for the day. College students hoped to use the day for a renewed push for Dream Act legislation -- which would provide some illegal immigrants with in-state tuition -- though few organized student walkouts were reported.

As Latin music blared, Alberto Cortez marched down Lake Street ahead of signs that read "Legalization For All Now" and "Pilgrims Didn't Need Green Cards."

Cortez received permission from his boss to take the day off from his construction job in suburban Burnsville. He said he turned out for the march because he was angry about the arrests this year of hundreds of illegal immigrants in Willmar and Worthington, many of whom were deported.

"We want them to stop the raids. Too many children have been separated from their families," said Cortez, who has been living in the U.S. illegally for 16 years, including seven in Minnesota.